SALT LAKE CITY — As Spanish Fork police officer Tyler Beddoes rushed into the cold water toward an overturned car last year, he left his personal pain and a crisis of faith behind him on the shore.
Beddoes and three other officers raced to upright the car, compelled by a voice they all say they heard pleading for help. But the 25-year-old driver of the vehicle, Lynn Jennifer "Jenny" Groesbeck, had been killed in the crash, and her 18-month-old daughter, Lily, was unconscious and clinging to life as she hung upside down in her car seat.
Beddoes says he has never doubted whose voice he heard that day. It was an angel saving not only the life of Baby Lily, but his own as well.
"I was really starting to lose my faith and my religious background until Baby Lily, and that really, really saved my life," Beddoes said Monday. "We rescued Baby Lily that day and heard the voice, but in reality, she rescued me, and the voice rescued me and my faith."
Beddoes has chronicled the experience in a new book, "Proof of Angels," detailing the pressures of police work, questions of faith, and the day the two collided when Lily was rescued. He is currently on a brief tour promoting the story, including a few days in Utah for a book signing on Thursday.
Having studied journalism in college, Beddoes has dabbled with writing to express his feelings throughout his 10-year law enforcement career. As Baby Lily's story spread, messages came from around the world describing the hope many had found learning about the miraculous rescue, and Beddoes began to wonder if it was time to do more to share his account of what happened that day.
Beddoes reached out to a publishing agent, who connected him with Ptolemy Tompkins — collaborating author with neurosurgeon Eben Alexander on the best-selling book, "Proof of Heaven," detailing the doctor's near-death experience — to join him in writing Baby Lily's story. The book, published by Simon and Schuster, was released this month and is on track to be released in seven countries and five languages.
In the book, Beddoes describes how the experience with Baby Lily and the voice that called for her rescue had been a turning point in his own moment of despair.
Through the years, the horrors Beddoes saw in his career and mounting hostility toward police across the country had begun to wear on him, and though he remained as committed as ever to law enforcement, Beddoes said he couldn't seem to shake the pain. As a husband and a father, two cases detailed in the book plagued him in particular: A 21-year-old father who took the life of his 2-year-old son before shooting himself in June 2013, and a Lindon police officer who shot and killed his wife, their two children and his mother in law, then killed himself in January 2014.
What he had seen led Beddoes to question God and his conviction in the faith he was raised in, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I was in a complete downward spiral," Beddoes said. "Right up until Lily, it was some of my worst moments, of darkness, spiritually speaking. And then that incident, the voice we heard it really just changed my outlook on life and the spiritual realm as well."
Tompkins contributed a deep, historical look at angelic ministrations to the book, Beddoes said. At times the philosophical narrative felt "over my head," he joked, but ultimately it lends a strong supplement to his personal experience.
Before the book could be published, Beddoes insisted that Lily's family have a chance to read the book. The family and the officer have remained close, Beddoes said, sending updated pictures of Lily and texting messages of encouragement as he promotes the story.
"That was the scariest part. Once we were done, I had them read it before it went out to anywhere, because if they were disappointed, I wouldn't do it. That's how much I care about that family," the officer said. "It was really positive, it worked out really great."
The greatest message that Beddoes hopes readers will find in his book is one of hope.
"Angel encounters happen all the time," he said. "It's amazing, doing the research for the book, you can talk to so many people and so many people have emailed me saying, 'I've had this same type of experience,' and they're all over. I think that if we really open our eyes to it, it happens all the time."
It was intimidating detailing his personal and professional life for the book, Beddoes said, but the reaction so far has been positive. While he will look for additional opportunities as a writer, he said his conviction as a police officer has been renewed over the past year.
Beddoes will be at a book signing, his first ever, Thursday at 7 p.m. at Barnes and Noble in Orem.